Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1hr 36min
Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz
Language: English and Spanish with English subtitles
Who…Who…Who Wrote the Book of Love?
In a Nutshell
Woman: Early on when Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) says she’s just finished filming a 12 minute documentary on the definition of love…well, that’s a big hint, Shelly.
Man: Huh? So you mean this movie is about romantic love?
Woman: Duh! These two young friends, ex college roommates, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina, (we’re told in voice-over) have very different takes on romance, Vicky being super New York-analytical, pragmatic, level headed; Cristina the opposite, a sucker for suffering, passion, tragic story lines. All Cristina has to hear is that Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) is the scandalous ex-husband in town who shot his wife or was shot or something, and she doesn’t hesitate to throw herself at him.
Man: Let’s talk about him for a moment. There couldn’t have been anyone more perfectly cast for this role. His looks, his accent, his stare truly carry the film. Even I was in love with him!
Woman: That first shot of him, languidly lazing against the wall… Ladies, he is the epitome of the Sexy, Slightly Dangerous Rake we’ve all come across. As someone susceptible in my youth to European charm and a sometime victim of it (I am now inoculated!), I could really relate to one of the themes of this movie.
Man: Which is… abandoning yourself recklessly? I mean, Cristina was just a true romantic.
Woman: Yet even Vicky without a romantic bone in her body, we think, falls for Juan Antonio or for his embodiment of the Catalan culture, subject of her Master’s thesis.
Man: What could be more boring than the meeting with the American couple from Greenwich, CT and the mealtime talk of decorators, golf games, oriental rugs? Vicky’s husband, Doug, is dorky, dull, straight arrow, no risk taker.
Woman: Woody Allen’s great at recreating that upper middle class New York speak. You know, this movie is really about the choices every woman has to make — should she choose a good man who can support her and father her children and give her a good predictable life or should she follow her passions and take her chances on a less scripted scenario?
Cristina just wants to experience love in all its incarnations. She only knows what she doesn’t want and this soon includes a gorgeous, passionate painter and his crazy, homicidal, suicidal, bisexual ex-wife.
Man: So glad you finally got to Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz)! Do you remember Gina Lollobrigida in Trapeze? Penelope has the same animal intensity in the scene where she’s painting and dressed like a cavewoman.
Woman: At times, this movie seemed like Love, Italian Style, right in line with those old Marcello Mastroianni/Sophia Loren farces.
Man: So what do we rate this film anyway? I think at least 3 stars, just based on the Barcelona setting, the cinematography, the acting. Bardem and Cruz were perfectly matched.
Woman: He has quite a range, doesn’t he? Going from playing that insanely scary psychopathic killer in No Country for Old Men to playing this suave and sexy lady killer. Didn’t he start out as a fat cop in Traffic?
Man: So, what’s your feeling?
Woman: Some things bothered me about his film: the irritating voice-over, Vicky’s extremely boring analyses of everything and anything, and the pace. Though only 1 hour 36 minutes, I was impatient to know the resolution of the plot and almost didn’t care at the end what happened to these beautiful, self-involved people. I mean Vicky studying the Catalan culture and she can’t even pronounce Catalan properly or speak more than a dozen words of Spanish!
Man: But let’s agree that this film is another Woody Allen comeback movie.
Woman: Absolutely. He’s still the master at exploring the New York sensibility and this film’s subject will really resonate with women.